A recent cartoon in the July 7th edition of the Washington Post showed an Israeli and a Palestinian playing tennis, but rather than tennis balls they were striking bombs at each other. In a caption by the Palestinian side of the court are the words �Palestinian reprisals� for the wrongs committed by Israel and on the Israeli side is a caption that read �Israeli Reaction� to the wrongs of the Palestinians.
The cartoon goes on to show the referee being represented by the angle of death, a skeletal figure wearing a black hood and holding an ax while the caption at the other end of the bombed-out tennis court read �unwinnableton.� With a simple cartoon and a few words, the Washington Post did an excellent job of describing the most recent crisis and the general conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
For the last 60 years, the Palestinians and Israelis have attacked each other and justified their attacks as retaliation for the wrongs committed by the other. The most recent events are no exception. Israel has attacked Palestinians in Gaza, killing approximately 50 Palestinians, destroyed bridges, electric transformers and otherwise caused enormous damage to Gaza and the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there. Israel says their actions are in retaliation for Palestinian militants holding hostage an Israeli soldier and the killing of two other Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian militants justified the killing of the two soldiers as retaliation for the 20 Palestinian civilians who were recently killed by Israeli bombings and the Palestinians also justified holding the Israeli soldier hostage as retaliation for the thousands of Palestinian hostages in Israeli jails. Israel in turn justified the bombings that caused the 20 civilian deaths as retaliation to the home made rockets that Palestinian militias have fired at Israel. The Palestinians have justified the firing of the rockets as retaliation for Israel�s unwillingness to recognize their recently elected government and for not allowing financial aid to reach the Palestinians. Israel justified the sanctions against the Palestinians as retaliation for the election of a HAMAS led government that refuses to recognize Israel�s right to exist.
For the last 60 years, the Palestinians and Israelis have attacked each other and justified their attacks as retaliation for the wrongs committed by the other.
If one was to accelerate backward the tit for tat retaliations one would hear the Palestinians say that they are fighting an occupation that has treated them inhumanly. The Israelis would respond that the occupation was a response to an imminent attack by Arab countries. The Palestinians would respond that Israel occupied Palestinian territory for expansionist reasons. And to that argument, Israel would argue that they occupied Palestinian land in self-defense.
If one was to again reverse the tit for tat retaliations several decades to 1948, one would hear the Palestinians complain that Israel stole their land, kicked them out of their homes and turned them into refugees. Israel would respond that the United Nations divided historic Palestine to create a home for the Jews and it was the Palestinians who refused to accept the U.N. mandated division of historic Palestine. The Israelis would further argue that when Israel was created it took in Jewish refugees from all over the world and that the Arab countries should have also taken in the Palestinian refugees. To this argument the Palestinians would say that it was they who did not want to be settled in Arab countries because they have a home called Palestine and that they want to return to their home.
Tit for tat retaliations will NEVER solve this conflict.
The point behind this partial chronology is to illustrate that there is no military solution for the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Tit for tat retaliations will NEVER solve this conflict. At the end of the day, the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians goes back to the creation of Israel which the Israelis see as a joyous day and the Palestinians see as a catastrophe because the creation of Israel dispersed the majority of Palestinians all over the world and caused a refugee crisis. Thus, a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will ONLY emerge from truth and reconciliation and not from violence. Israelis and Palestinians must confront their past by engaging in a national dialogue on a person to person level and not just government officials.
Without a doubt, Israelis, Palestinians and their supporters will respond to this article by saying �we tried negotiations but the other side did not want peace.� Well, if Israelis and Palestinians put the same effort in reconciliation as they do in retaliation they may actually have peace today.
The United States government and Arab countries must become more involved in helping the Israelis and Palestinians settle their disputes. When President Bush took office his administration took the position that the U.S. will not deal with a Palestinian government headed by Yasser Arafat. At that time, the second Palestinian uprising was raging and the Bush administration felt that Arafat was fueling the uprising. In 2005, Arafat died but the uprising continued and neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis have peace.
If Israelis and Palestinians put the same effort in reconciliation as they do in retaliation they may actually have peace today.
Without a doubt both Palestinians and Israelis want peace but they simply don�t know how to achieve it. This is why the United States, the Arab countries and the rest of the world must do all they can to facilitate reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. If the peacemakers do not facilitate a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians this conflict will certainly become more violent and will continue to destabilize the Middle East.